Survivor Day 38 Club (Revised) – No. 7 – Kathy Vavrick-O’Brien

Ian Walker continues to count down the updated rankings.

Photo: CBS / Badge: Stamp Vectors by Vecteezy

The last person to leave the game, the person so close to the end they can taste the money but has their opportunity to plead their case taken away at the very last moment. That person becomes ingrained in their respective season as the final recipient of “The Tribe Has Spoken” and earns a place in a very special group in Survivor history: The Day 38 Club.

Inside Survivor contributor Ian Walker continues the countdown of the updated and revised Day 38 Club rankings. The list takes into account the strength of a player’s game, character, and the power of their story.


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No. 7 – Kathy Vavrick-O’Brien (Marquesas)

Out of all the “zero to hero” story arcs on Survivor, the greatest one might belong to Kathy Vavrick-O’Brien, albeit with a twist. Far from useless around the camp, Kathy stepped onto the beach with a real go-getter attitude, embracing the adventure and wanting to do as many survival things as she could. However, her industrious approach made her a tribe outcast, and she became alienated for the first couple of days.

As time went on, Kathy calmed down, assimilated with her tribe (even peeing on John Carroll’s hand in a time of need), and then went to work. She focused that propulsive energy from camp life into the game, contributing to so some of the biggest power shifts the game had seen up to that point, winning viewers over week-after-week with her adventurous spirit.

By the time Kathy was voted out, she had become one of the most popular players out of all the first four seasons, which made it all the more impactful when she was eliminated on Day 38.

After the rocky start, Kathy’s game really began to pick up at the merge. Recognizing that the power resided in the Rotu 4 alliance, Kathy took on the scrappy underdog role for a while, constantly looking for a way to break up that alliance and for people to join her to do so.

That opportunity came at the final nine after a fateful challenge revealed the Rotu 4’s pecking order. Before that challenge, Kathy already had the two people on the bottom, Sean Rector and Vecepia Towery, onboard to shake things up, but she needed the other pair, Paschal English and Neleh Dennis.

Despite how hard Kathy tried, Paschal and Neleh were steadfast in their loyalty to the Rotu 4. However, after that challenge, it opened their eyes and allowed Kathy, Sean, and Vecepia to link up with Paschal and Neleh to make the first big power swing in Survivor up until that point and take out the Rotu 4.

From that point forward, the manic highs and lows that Kathy experienced during the first half of the game only became more exaggerated. For every moment of jubilation, like winning Immunity or seeing her son at the family visit, came a moment of exhaustion, like at the final five where she was forced to pick between the two pairs. After toiling over this decision, she sided with Paschal and Neleh and voted out Sean, unaware of the even more emotionally draining last three days that were ahead of her.

At the final four, after Vecepia pulled out a clutch Immunity win, Kathy immediately struck up a final two deal with her, forcing a tie which resulted in the first purple rock tie-breaker in Survivor history. After surviving that harrowing game of chance, Kathy seemed to be in the clear, thinking she was heading to the final two. But she was dealt one final death blow she didn’t see coming.

During the final Immunity challenge, Kathy was the first to drop out, upon which Vecepia immediately made a new final two deal with Neleh, thereby sealing Kathy’s fate. The two agreed, Neleh won the challenge and voted out Kathy on Day 38.

By the time Kathy reached her final words confessional, she looked shell-shocked, having been through an emotional wringer over the 38 days, and it was easy to see why. Kathy played Survivor: Marquesas with the utmost energy at all times, fighting hard and having a blast all at once, leaving a lasting impression as one of the defining characters of the early era and a true Survivor legend.

Stay tuned to Inside Survivor as the Day 38 Club rankings continue over the coming days. Check out the previous entries here.

Written by

Ian Walker

Ian, from Chicago, Illinois, graduated with a Communications major and an English minor and is now navigating adult life the best he can. He has been a fan of Survivor since Pearl Islands aired when he was 11 years old, back when liking Rupert was actually cool.

2 responses to “Survivor Day 38 Club (Revised) – No. 7 – Kathy Vavrick-O’Brien”

  1. I was thinking that Kathy should place higher (top three), but you have provided some good analytics. It is really difficult to compare “old school” with “new school” with these types of placements.

    Is it wrong that I take a little something away from her for her performance (and attitude/gameplay) in All-Stars? Probably.

    Good analysis, overall.

  2. I think the winner of that final immunity were always going to vote Kathy out. Vecepia and Neleh both knew they had a chance vs each other, while Kathy would utterly massacre both in a 6-1 vote, only Paschal voting Neleh, and Sean probably voting Vecepia.

    That was one of the best seasons ever and Kathy winning it would have really put it over the top. A very sad final boot, such a classy lady.

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